A dedicated ex-serviceman lived up to his title of ‘best man’ after pulling out all the stops to bring a special celebrity-packed message to his lifelong friend’s wedding.
Danny Rickwood, 32, spent 10 months gathering heartfelt messages of congratulations from famous celebrities from all corners of the UK for his best friend Ashley Swarbrick, 33, who married his long-term sweetheart Louise Coyle, 26, in Wrea Green.
The former paratrooper was determined to bring a touch of magic to Ashley’s wedding after Ashley lost his mum Sandra to lung cancer in 1998, and dad David to a heart attack in 2013.
Ashley, who lives in Poulton, said: “My mum and dad weren’t able to be at the wedding and I have got a very small family and none of them were actually able to attend, so that’s where Danny got the idea.
“I had no clue what he was planning. He kept saying to me ‘I’ve received something’, and he said that about 15 times and I wondered what he was up to.
“When he went up to do his best man’s speech I saw the projector set up behind him and I thought ‘Oh no! He’s going to show lots of horrendous pictures of me!’
“At first I thought it was a joke – then Peter Andre’s face popped up.”
Ashley and Louise’s wedding was celebrated by a host of household names, including former England footballer Alan Shearer, singer Peter Andre, wildlife explorer and TV presenter Bear Grylls, pop star and Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, professional boxer Ricky Hatton, TV presenter Bradley Walsh, Dame Barbara Windsor and radio DJ Nick Grimshaw.
They gave their best wishes to the happy couple in a video montage that was broadcast during the wedding party.
Ashley said: “Danny was gathering videos for more than 10 months.
“I have no idea how he managed to do it.
“We were stunned and didn’t know what to say.”
Louise added: “I was just gobsmacked. I sat there with my mouth hanging open.
“It was a huge surprise.
“I’d actually given Danny some pictures of Ashley growing up so that’s what I was expecting when I saw the projector.
“He kept it a very big secret.”
And the stars were more than game to send best wishes, and play along for laughs.
Peter Andre told the happy couple: “I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit disappointed I didn’t get an invite and I know it’s because Ash skimped on the food and seats so I’ve had to end up sending a video message – but that’s fine.”
And hiding a sob he added: “I sit here in my dressing room in sheer disappointment but I’m happy for you and wish you love and success.”
Coronation Street’s Kevin Webster – aka actor Michael Le Vell – told the happy couple: “I hope it works out better than my marriage did.”
“Have an amazing wedding,” added Bear Grylls.
Other messages of support came from TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, former Blackpool FC footballer Charlie Adam, singer and presenter Olly Murs and England Rugby World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson.
Dame Barbara Windsor said she’d received a ‘smashing’ letter rom Danny and said she understood times had not been good, but Ashley now had a ‘lovely lady’ to spend his life with.
And radio and TV presenter Chris Moyles, ever playing the fool, recorded a message mxing up the names.
“It’s two women that have got married is it?” he asks someone off screen. “I think it’s brilliant that in 2016 two women can declare their love for each other.”
After being prompted off camera, he adds: “Apparently Ashley’s a man. Does Louise know?... I used to be famous.”
And cheeky quiz show host and entertainer Bradley Walsh told the couple: “Always remember, on the night of the wedding... The Chase is on.”
Ashley and best man Danny became fast friends at the age of 11 after meeting at Fleetwood High School. Inseparable on the playground and later the battlefield, the pair joined the Army together at the age of 18, where they worked in the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Logistics Corps for seven years.
Ashley, who now works as a lorry driver, said: “Nobody else could have been my best man. Nobody even compares to Danny.”
Council operations manager Danny, who lives in Fleetwood, said: “I thought it would be something different.
“Ashley’s dad passed away recently and he’s had a bit of a hard time so when it came to my best man’s speech instead of giving him a grilling for 20 minutes I decided to do something a bit softer.
“I tried making contact with celebrities through their agents and asked them if they could spare some time to hear Ashley’s story. I told them I wanted to do something different to a normal best man’s speech. They get tons and tons of requests from fans every day so I was quite touched that so many of them would take the time to do it.
“For the ones who went along with it I’d really like to thank them for taking 30 seconds to make Ashley’s day special.”